Sugar Creek’s Giant Smallies


As the old adage goes…you should strike when the iron is hot and if you were with me a couple weeks back you know that I had journeyed north to Sugar Creek and caught the creek on one of those rare days when the fish were both aggressive and big as I caught three fish over 19 inches on that particular day; one would think that topping a day such as this would be almost impossible, come along with me as I tell you about a day that Frank Terkhorn and I had that was…well…even more epic as I landed a dozen fish at or just over 18 inches.

For a fly-guy or for any fisherman, there are several factors that need to come together to truly have ‘an-epic’ day; weather is always first and foremost as a high pressure area will put the fish down and for sure slow down their aggressiveness, making it almost impossible to get them to feed. Water clarity is another factor as fishing streams, rivers and creeks, you have to consider the staining of the water…is it too clear or too muddy? Somewhere in between is both ideal, based on each fly-guys preferences, anywhere from just off of clear to almost stained is what we prefer-for me, I like the water to be more stained as this allows me to get closer and move more freely within the water. The last factor that I consider and is at times the trump card, is the amount of sun. Too much sun is a certain killer as it puts the fish down-lower in the water column. A bright sunny day is tough to fish unless you have good structure or cover along the stream and shade nearby as well. Sugar Creek has both downed logs, rocks, etc…and when combined with shade…makes for that perfect combination that we happened to have on the past few trips northward.

Once again, like the past trip to Sugar Creek, I knew it was going to be a great day as I was only a couple hundred yards from the bridge when I landed my first fish…and it was just over 18 inches. The next five minutes produced three more fish of which, two were also over 18 inches. A pattern had emerged and right off the bat; the fish were ‘loafing’ downstream and just past cover…and in the shade. There they were waiting for unknowing baitfish to amble by as the explosions I had on this day were like no other. On many occasions the water would boil as soon as the fly hit the water and I found that I had to be ready to strip set at the end of my cast…any loafing could and did result in a few lost hook-ups.
smallmouth bass caught from float tube on Sugar CreekNow this was indeed Memorial Day and I knew that the potential for ‘others’ to be out on the creek was high but I never thought I would experience the ‘droves’ of kayakers, canoers and tubers that I did. I don’t think it would be a poor estimate to say that there had to be close to 500 of my ‘fellow’ water lovers that paddled or drifted by me. I really don’t mind this too much, that is unless your only purpose on the water is to yell and annoy anyone else on the water…and there was at least two groups that made a memorable impression as they hooted and hollered for what seemed like a couple of river miles. The incredible thing was how used to the shenanigans the fish actually are as on several occasions I landed fish with the ‘others’ right in my back pocket; on a couple of occasions I must admit that I have never experienced ‘stadium-fishing’ like I did on this day…being cheered on by throngs of enthusiasts is a fly-fishing adventure that I don’t ever recall before?

Frank and I had left what we thought would be plenty of time in our day…from start to finish or pick-up we had allowed for a bit over six hours. Normally that would leave plenty of time but on a day such as this…when you are catching, filming and landing fish after fish…well, let’s just say that I wound up at our take out point just a few minutes ahead of our scheduled time. There among the many that were unloading and leaving their watercraft I had to take just a minute and think back on what an absolutely incredible day the Good Lord had given me. I experienced a year, heck, maybe even a lifetime of big smallmouth and did so on one of the most glorious days I could recall.
small mouth bass underwaterFrank had had a very good day as well and as we drove the hour and a half home we crunched the numbers…this is always a good time as you take time to reflect on the successes or failures of any day. For me I always make mental notes on things to do differently or better…but on this day, I have to say that I had just shot a course record 59 (sorry for the golf analogy). I hope that I can experience an even better day but I would be surprised if it happened anytime too soon. Just to get to be on a river with such beauty is one thing, however to experience great fishing for my favorite fish…well you should know that this was indeed a day whereby I truly Enjoyed the Great Outdoors.


    • John Beall
    • July 3, 2016

    I love hearing stories like this. Days like that stay with you forever. Mind if I ask where you put in at?

      • Jeff
      • July 5, 2016

      You can put in at the Sugar Creek success point about halfway between Crawfordsville and Shades State Park….or at Davis Bridge…but you’ll need to get a parking permit from Clements, they’re located at Deers Mill just east of Shades….hope this works….

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